BULAWAYO – The late academic Professor Phinias Makhurane has been declared a national hero by the Zanu PF politburo.

He will be laid to rest at the National Heroes Acre in Harare on Saturday.

Makhurane, 79, died at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo on December 1.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi announced the honour when he visited the Makhurane home in Fourwinds suburb on Thursday morning.

He told mourners that the decision to grant the national hero status to the National University of Science and Technology’s (Nust) founding Vice Chancellor had been unanimous.

“The decision to honour Prof Makhurane with a national hero status was arrived at yesterday (Wednesday) during Zanu PF’s politburo meeting. It was a unanimous decision in recognition of his contributions to the country’s education sector,” said Mohadi.

In a condolence message earlier this week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa described Makhurane as an “outstanding scholar”.

“Quiet and unassuming, there was the other side to the late departed which his remarkable modesty kept away from public gaze. He was a strong nationalist whose privileged position as a man of letters with stable prospects even under colonial conditions did not blunt or diminish,” Mnangagwa said.

“He grew and pursued his academic career, a key part of nationalist politics then under the banner of ZAPU, a sister Liberation Movement. He kept connected to, and involved in, the whole process of the National Liberation Struggle, even as he taught at the University of Botswana.

“At Independence, he heeded the call to come back home and help with the reconstruction of our nation, concentrating his efforts in the area he knew and did best, namely that of higher education,” he said.

“He helped raise generations of students and scholars, many of who occupy influential positions in the country and beyond.

“Today, Nust stands out as a monument to his visionary leadership and sterling effort, with much of its structures and educational programmes having taken form and shape when our country was in the grip of deep economic challenges largely wrought by punitive sanctions from the West.

“As we mourn his passing on, we, at the same time, celebrate this incomparable bequest to our nation by which he shall be remembered across generations.”

Prof Makhurane’s last born son, Mooketsi, said his father suffered from diabetes and hypertension for a long time before he died on Saturday.

Prof Makhurane was born in Gwanda in 1939 and did his primary education in the district before enrolling at Chegato in Mberengwa, Manama in Gwanda, Mnene again in Mberengwa and Fletcher High School in Gweru for his secondary education.

He went to the then University of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe) for his first degree where he majored in Mathematics and Physics and proceeded to the United Kingdom where he attained a Masters and PhD in Physics.

Prof Makhurane later worked as a lecturer at the University of Zambia where he helped many locals and Zambians, including Mnangagwa, to get scholarships.

He also worked at the University of Botswana where he was Dean of Faculty of Science until independence when he decided to come back home to work at the University of Zimbabwe where he became the Pro Vice-Chancellor, before moving to the University of Science and Technology (Nust) as the Vice Chancellor.

He also played a big role in the planning of the establishment of the University of Gwanda.

Prof Makhurane was Zapu representative in Sweden during the struggle for independence.

He is survived by his wife and four children – three boys and a girl.